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Article |  12/28/2020Timo Cantell

Editorial: Monitoring Helsinki's development in challenging times

The coronavirus pandemic has tested Helsinki’s alertness mechanisms and reacting capabilities like no other crisis in recent decades. As in other cities, the priorities during the first phase of the COVID-19 crisis lay in protecting the most vulnerable population groups and reorganising our activities so as to prevent the worst possible outcomes of an epidemic caused by a virus that was still largely unknown.

To this date, Helsinki has faced challenging circumstances yet the situation has been somewhat less dramatic than in many European capitals. At the time of writing, just over 10,000 COVID-19 cases had been detected in Helsinki, and 20,000 in the Helsinki–Uusimaa Hospital District (or around 30% and 60% respectively of all cases in Finland). Cities such as Stockholm or Amsterdam have reported figures multiple times larger relative to population size.

Even if the local coronavirus epidemic has been contained to a greater extent than in peer cities, the impact of the crisis is expected to be immense in the social and economic spheres. The dire consequences will be felt in key industries such as services and the creative economy. The financial hardship in the private sector is likely to pose some challenges to the City’s capabilities to provide quality public services. To help combat these challenges and to draw up and execute postcrisis recovery plans, Helsinki needs up-to-date, on-point data and analysis – often in real time.

The coronavirus crisis has put the City’s monitoring systems and practices to test as well. While we have a long experience of analysing the current state and development of the City of Helsinki – with a breathtaking variety of different data sources, reports and projections – putting together a coordinated effort to respond to a sudden crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic with data was neither easy nor seamless. The lessons learned from this process will be a valuable asset as we develop our monitoring and information systems further. In future, as till now, Helsinki will place great emphasis on facilitating informed decision-making both with quick analyses and real-time dashboards as well as with more in-depth studies and research.  

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